BELEAGUERED motorists could see roadworks being completed more quickly under new plans to fine councils, it emerged yesterday.
In a bid to ease growing gridlock across the country, works on major routes could soon be carried out seven days a week.
And the new proposals – welcomed by motoring groups – will see town halls fined Â£5,000 a day if projects are seen to be unmanned at weekends.
The move, an attempt to bring respite to frustrated motorists, would mean roadworks would have to be carried out over weekends as well as on weekdays so projects are finished sooner, or are lifted until they resume.
Councils and utility companies could face the stringent fines of up to Â£5,000 a day if works needlessly inconvenience road users by being left in place when no one is actually working.
Daily fines of Â£5,000 currently exist for roadworks that overrun, but penalties could also be handed out to those who leave temporary traffic lights in place after work has been finished, the Department for Transport said.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “I want to deliver better journeys for drivers. Roadworks can be essential but that doesn’t mean they should be in place any longer than is absolutely necessary.
“That is why I am looking at proposals to reduce queues and make drivers’ lives easier. These common sense measures will be a welcome relief to those trying to get from A to B on our local roads.”
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin
He added: “Over Christmas we were able to lift a massive number of roadworks on trunk roads, but this package of measures will benefit drivers all the year round.”
The proposals are designed to reduce congestion on A-roads, which are managed by local authorities, and help reduce the millions of hours drivers lose every year stuck in traffic instead of at work or enjoying their leisure time.
And last night the plans were met with open arms by motoring organisations.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Road users see red when they come across sets of temporary traffic lights that are stopping traffic but there are no workmen in sight or the work has actually finished.
“Ministers can’t stop utility companies digging up the roads but they can make firms pay the price if the work is not done swiftly and they do not tidy up after themselves.”
He added: “The road network is used relentlessly 24/7 and every one of the two million sets of road works carried out annually to repair pipes and lay cables causes disruption. Anything that can be done to keep the tailbacks to a minimum will be welcomed by Britain’s 37 million motorists.”
The Government is investing Â£15 billion to improve England’s road network and address long-standing problems.
New research published this week revealed that motorists are facing more gridlock on the roads following a jump in the number of traffic lights, speed bumps and cycle lanes put in to appease the green lobby.
The Government is investing Â£15 billion to improve Englandâ€™s road network
An independent panel of experts found the UK road network is under siege from anti-car measures which cost the country billions of pounds annually but have not raised safety.
In the highly critical conclusion of their report, they compared councils’ efforts to wage war on drivers to those taken by communist regimes.
The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) study found that the number of traffic lights has increased by more than 40 per cent in 20 years – from 23,000 in 1994 to 33,000 in 2014.
In the same period, the number of speed bumps rose 20-fold to 60,000, while signs for cycle routes jumped from 1,572 in 1993 to 41,188 in 2013.
But the Local Government Association defended the performance of councils in keeping the roads clear and questioned the need for fines.
Spokesman Cllr Peter Box said: “Councils want to do everything they can to help motorists and minimise disruption to their journeys.
“Roadworks are necessary to ensure the supply of vital services like gas, electricity and rural broadband and to improve the roads we all use. There is already a strong financial incentive for roadworks to be finished as quickly as possible because the hire of equipment and trained staff is so expensive.
“Often works are left unattended for a very good reason, for example to let concrete dry. These fines may mean we end up paying people to watch concrete dry because it is cheaper.”